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Australia's central Bank hoses down Chinese hack report

Reserve Bank says attacks contained, no data lost

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Australia's Reserve Bank has confirmed it has been attacked, after a report in the Australian Financial Review claimed its “... computer networks have been repeatedly and successfully hacked in a series of cyber-attacks to infiltrate sensitive internal information, including by Chinese-developed malicious software”.

The Reserve Bank (RBA) is Australia's central bank and has functions broadly comparable to those of the Bank of England or the US Federal Reserve.

The AFR report mentions hacks on France that resulted in several thousand confidential documents supposedly making their way in the general direction of China, but does not say if Australian documents were lost.

The RBA has since issued a statement admitting to detecting attacks but has classified them as mere “virus attacks”. Here's what the RBA had to say:

“As reported in today's media, the Bank has on occasion been the target of cyber attacks. The Bank has comprehensive security arrangements in place which have isolated these attacks and ensured that viruses have not been spread across the Bank's network or systems. At no point have these attacks caused the Bank's data or information to be lost or its systems to be corrupted. The Bank's IT systems operate safely, securely and with a high degree of resilience.”

If online criminal activity is as prevalent as security companies constantly tell us, one would expect a high-value target like a Reserve Bank to be a target. One would also expect it to attract expert and motivated attackers, if only because it is hard to imagine the phishers and identity thieves of the world caring much about the Bank's sensitive information or being interested in the almost-certainly complex chore of finding buyers for it.

Something else that is almost certain is that this story will run for a while: a media outlet with a story of this seeming importance will have more than one followup planned, probably with additional revelations.

Whether those followups mention this Deutsche Telecom data will be interesting, as it suggests China is far from the world's most active source of hack attacks. That “prize” goes to the Russian Federation, followed by “rogue” Chinese province/democratic Chinese breakaway state Taiwan.

As the Gartner blog post that brought the Deutsche Telecom data to Vulture South's attention says, “It is fairly well known  by most security professionals that the best hackers on the planet often originate from Russia,  however it is  more newsworthy to talk about  a country such as China whom we trust with many of our manufacturing facilities and research and development activities and have greater resources at their disposal if they intended to inflict harm.” ®

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